By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Lou Dobbs has been tapped by Senate Democrats to help reform our nation’s policies on immigration. Senator Schumer met with Dobbs and proclaims Dobbs is “changing his views” on immigration. In case you forgot, Dobbs had a show on CNN where his cause célèbre was immigration. Dobbs made his bones bashing the immigrants and blaming them as being the root cause of all the evil in this nation. Everything from the economy to Swine Flu was alleged to have come about thanks to so-called illegal immigration. Dobbs and his dwindling audience were inflamed, incensed, and incredulous. Now, Dobbs is a darling of the Senate and seen as being part of the solution to the problem. That just creeps me out.
Don’t forget that it was Lou Dobbs, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, Fox News, and the Republican Theocrats who brought to the fore an issue that did not exist prior to the rise of the Bush Administration. There have always been folks sneaking across the border; the crime for which is a Violation – akin to a speeding ticket. With the fear and paranoia that took over the White House after ‘9-11’, the safety of the borders became a clarion call. Only the Mexican border is the one that drew our attention.
Let’s be honest about a few things here. There is no such thing as the crime of being “illegal immigrant”. That phrase is being thrown around today as though the title itself exposed the bearer to the Scarlet Letter of AIDS, Avian Flu, Ebola Virus, or a dirty bomb strapped to their back. As the Republicans once did to the word “Liberal”, they have now made the word “illegal immigrant” to appear to be a stain and a threat to our nation and future security.
For the record, an “illegal immigrant” is a misnomer. An immigrant is someone who migrates to a place to stay. One who migrates to the United States without going through the “system” but instead just walks across the border is here in violation of U.S. civil law. They are not criminals and have committed no offense greater than when you or I get a speeding ticket. Their mere presence alone constitutes no threat. We must not allow ourselves to be caught up again in the fear and hate mongering that goes along with a warming up Republican election machine.
While we are being honest here … let us be really honest and admit that there is no such thing as an “illegal immigration problem” in the United States. My memories may be fading in my old age, but I can still remember the world before 9/11 and how folks sneaking across the border into the U.S. were considered nothing more than a nuisance. Only in the post 9/11 world did the subject suddenly become a national emergency and crisis needing immediate attention.
We are now going to be led along by the nose through this discussion over what is basically an irrelevant topic. Immigration does not present a threat to our nation. In fact, shutting down our borders, “shooting to kill” attempts at illegal entry, and turning millions of otherwise peaceful human beings into felons is not the answer. It is a very expensive path that goes nowhere.
In our quest for honesty, let us be truthful about this so-called problem. Arguments about a drain on our taxes, medical resources, education, and public welfare systems are the constant banter from those with problems with immigrants.
Yet, it is “we” and our harshening policies that have created this strain. If people coming here could work, pay taxes, get a drivers license, and be in the mainstream, then we would not be experiencing the problems we do. Let them do it for a month or a year or 20 years or a lifetime and even return home if they so desire. But, rather than enabling people to be normal and function in society according to its norms, we drive these people underground. We force them to work for cash, to not pay taxes, to fake IDs, to live 30 people to an apartment, and to keep having anchor babies. How does the old saying go? “Prohibition Doesn’t Work”, it only creates an underground black market economy and infects overall society with worsening crime rates and rising social welfare costs.
As a Fourth Generation American, I have to swallow my bile when I hear people proclaiming “we do not have enough as it is and we cannot afford to let many more people in”. “Good old American jobs belong only to Americans.” If my grandparents had voted that way, how many of you would be reading this today? Yes, streams of immigration do create stress on society but that has always been the case. It is from those stresses, however, that new markets are formed, new technologies developed, new economies are grown, and new paradigms arise. Staking out a position against immigration or of restricting immigration is contrary to this nation’s roots, its history, and its very essence.
I concur with the security argument. We do indeed have a right to know who and what is passing through our borders. But absent more, that should be the end of it. Visas and travel papers should be used solely for control and monitoring purposes. They should never rise to the level of crimes and restrictions. If Jose wants to come here from Paraguay and work for 5 years, and pay taxes, and even find a woman and have a child, and then go home, we should have no objection. We only need him in a system so we can know his whereabouts at census time or that another Jose came from Paraguay and so resources can be concentrated and their need anticipated.
If you read our Constitution, only once is the word “citizen” used and only in the one instance does it convey any special privilege. Pursuant to the 14th Amendment, ALL PERSONS BORN AND NATURALIZED are “citizens”. Only citizens have the right to vote. Citizenship conveys no other privilege. Consequently, while we Citizens vote and set policy, nowhere in the constitution does it say that only citizens are allowed to reside here. Non citizens can serve in the military and enjoy all the rights and privileges of every citizen.
So, what is the big deal about non citizens roaming freely amongst us? Or is it just the thought of Latin non citizens that makes folks’ skin crawl? Or perhaps it is the thought of poor non-English speaking babbling about. Or perhaps it is just that folks are tired of paying taxes and are searching for a scapegoat. I doubt the problem is with paying taxes. Rather, I believe the real issue is spending. We object to spending … and the only group of people we feel can safely target in today’s PC world are “illegal immigrants”. They are going to become America’s newest taxi drivers, or should I say “Irish need not apply”, or “No Catholics allowed”, or even “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”.
Once upon a time, I can remember joking about how we should build a wall or dig a trench along the Southern Border. It seemed to be a very good idea – not to protect us from Mexicans, but to protect Latin Americans from the United States. Latin culture is so sexy and sensual. It is passionate, expressive, and colorful. It would seem that we need to protect Latin Americans from the dangers of being homogenized into an American culture that is based on greed and selfish pettiness.
Putting Lou Dobbs front and center in the migration debate is akin to putting a fox in charge of the henhouse. How much can Dobbs change his viewpoint before he is seen as either a traitor to the cause that brought him fame or before he deteriorates into an unbelievable gasbag. There may be a problem with northward migration in the Americas. Indeed, there may even be a problem here in the United States. But Lou Dobbs is not the guy to be in the room. Senator Schumer has reach out beyond Dobbs and find expertise and knowledge on the subject. Bloviators and ethnocentric reactionaries like Dobbs have nothing to lend to the discussion.